THE 7TH BERLIN BIENNALE––MORE DISCUSSIONS THAN EVER BEFORE

 

The Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art has become a format providing a space for curatorial concepts beyond the mainstream production of contemporary art and culture. By choosing the artist Artur Żmijewski as the curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale, the Berlin Biennale once again demonstrated itself as a space for action and experimentation. Żmijewski and his pick of associated curators, Voina and Joanna Warsza, were particularly interested in strengthening the social impact of art and artists in order to manifest their responsibility towards the processes of social change. With more than 120,000 visitors, it was at twelve sites in Berlin and in Eisenhüttenstadt that the 7th Berlin Biennale negotiated art as a tool for social transformation by presenting a range of attempts of influencing politics directly.

 

For the first time in its history, everyone could visit the Berlin Biennale free of charge—a novelty that helped to reach audiences who normally do not respond to art institutions. Many visitors used the chance to visit the 7th Berlin Biennale more than once, hence following its process-based development. A newspaper informed about important issues around the 7th Berlin Biennale and offered texts on the participating artists and projects.

 

Already before its opening, the 7th Berlin Biennale generated a broader media interest than any previous edition. More than 1,000 articles in the daily news and specialized press reported on the event more extensively than ever before. In correspondence with the curatorial demand, the 7th Berlin Biennale’s content was no longer solely negotiated in the art field—the remarkable resonance to it exceeded the usual specialized publications and comprised not only national (Tagesschau) but also international press coverage such as Al-Jazeera and CNN.

 

The aim for direct political influence led to the process-based character of the 7th Berlin Biennale. While it did not begin with the mere installation of artworks in the gallery space, it will also not end by simply shutting the doors and cleaning everything up. It was months before the official opening on April 26, 2012 that one of the projects had already started: Martin Zet’s campaign to drop off Thilo Sarrazin’s best-seller Deutschland schafft sich abat so-called collection points all over Germany triggered a heated public debate that, instead of focusing on the racist content of the best-seller itself, protested wildly against the alleged intent of a book burning.

 

Correspondingly, the processes that this year’s Berlin Biennale initiated are far from completed with the closure of the event on July 1, 2012. In the following months a number of solidarity partners are going to continue with a series of actions, such as in the context of the upcoming steirischer herbst or the Swiss Institute in Rome. In addition, there are projects that were started as part of the 7th Berlin Biennale but will continue beyond it. Both the documentation of the exhibition and its projects and the discussions around it will continue to be accessible on the Berlin Biennale website. The newspaper Self # governing by Marina Naprushkina communicates scenarios of an alternative future to the citizens of Belarus. In the course of the 7th Berlin Biennale its first edition was distributed all over Europe as well as secretly to hundreds of homes in Belarus. It remains to be seen which impulses and changes Naprushkina’s drawings will initiate.

 

The project Berlin-Birkenau is a similar situation, for it will have an effect on the landscape of Berlin over the next decades. Łukasz Surowiec displaced several hundreds of birches from the environment of the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau to the landscape of Berlin. Now, these trees grow as living, decentralized monuments in schoolyards, parks and private spaces such as gardens and balconies. A further example of the flexible framework, which is needed for this type of exhibition, is the Peace Wall by Macedonian artist Nada Prlja. The wall at the southern end of Friedrichstraße highlighted the obvious, yet rarely pronounced processes of social segregation. The artist went to the site and discussed with business people, local residents, district politicians and the media. Although an application of urgency by the district council Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg to take down the wall was rejected, Prlja ultimately conceded to an early dismantling of the Peace Wall. Likewise the wall might have led to collectivizing the neighborhood and articulating own demands. In a similar way as regarding Martin Zet, with this project the Berlin Biennale entered the unstable territory of public debate by making a provocative statement—a risk whose results one could hardly foresee or control.

 

The 7th Berlin Biennale had an impact on district politics and the landscape of the city, on debates about collective memory and even on the executive board of one of the largest arms manufacturers in Germany. In 2011 the Federal Security Council confirmed the sale of tanks to Saudi-Arabia, which since March 2011 has been directly involved in the destruction of the Arab Spring. The group of art activists, Center for Political Beauty, used a website and billboards in Berlin-Mitte to post a wanted-call aiming for the arrest of the proprietors who cannot be sued for their dealings. In the course of this initiative one of the members of the executive board publicly denounced the trade with Saudi-Arabia upon which he was dismissed from the executive board.

 

In addition to Self # governing by Marina Naprushkina, Paweł Althamer’s collective performance Sunbeam was a direct response to the problem of participation in Belarus. Althamer mobilized 250 people who wore golden suits and marched at dawn towards the government palace in Minsk, a city in which it can be an illegal assembly if some friends happen to accidentally meet in the street. The journey of an oversized key sculpture from the refugee camp Aida near Bethlehem to the 7th Berlin Biennale provided an occasion to address the marginalization of the Palestinian narrative within the German public. With the passport and postal stamps for Palestine that Khaled Jarrar distributes worldwide as part of his project State of Palestine, the artist suggests the existence of a hitherto utopian state while at the same time transcending stable national aspirations.

 

Among the numerous discussions of recent years about the relationship between art and social responsibility, Artur Żmijewski’s Berlin Biennale represents a decisive practical step forward, not least also in terms of addressing the kind of self-deception that “critical” art is subjected to. For where does critical art really make an impact? Does it change the regional grievances it points out, or does it matter rather in the western centers where it is not only shown, but economically profitable? The Institute for Human Activities, which was co-founded by the artist Renzo Martens, attempts to turn the tables by displacing art production to places where gentrification would actually be desirable. A program of workshops and stipends on a plantation in the Congo wants to encourage local residents to benefit from the global art market by producing their own artworks. The Institute launched its five-year plan of activities with a seminar conducted as part of the 7th Berlin Biennale.

 

These were just a few concrete examples among the many other thought-provoking 7th Berlin Biennale projects. The Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP), initiated by Israeli-Dutch artist Yael Bartana, calls for a return of more than 3 million Jews to Poland, opening up questions about issues of co-existence both regarding Europe and Israel and the Middle East. Held at the Hebbel am Ufer (HAU 1), the First International Congress of the JRMiP developed a concrete platform and demands for the movement. The New World Summit by Dutch artist Jonas Staal was another contribution to the culture of political debate. Organized at Sophiensaele, this event brought together political and legal representatives of organizations marked on international terrorist lists. Discussing the undemocratic methods with which democracies exclude certain interests from their systems of representation, the alternative “parliament” assessed possibilities for introducing a radical form of democracy in Europe.

 

Political engagement is always connected to the problem of social responsibility. Theater that Acts was developed in cooperation with the Hebbel am Ufer and one of its performances, Illumination, by the theater group Krétakör around Hungarian director Árpád Schilling, pledged for understanding actors as political people. The actors of Krétakör see themselves as active members of society who transcend “façade art” (Marcin Śliwa in the reader Forget Fear).

 

As part of our contemporary society it is particularly the Occupy movements (started in 2011 with M15 and Occupy Wall Street) that represent the demand for social empowerment and participation on a global scale in a media savvy manner. Throughout the duration of the 7th Berlin Biennale, representatives from these different international groups practiced their forms of protest and strategies of involvement on the ground floor of KW. While the institution initially only offered the space, over the course of the exhibition this partnership grew into the desire not only to address the visitors of the exhibition as members of society, but also to transform the institution as a mediator between art and society into a “horizontal” structure––an example of the process-based and self-critical methods with which Artur Żmijewski and his associated curators made pivotal contributions to contemporary discussions around exhibition production.

 

The 7th Berlin Biennale did not pursue the type of curatorial concept that communicates a particular idea through a physical arrangement of artworks in a space. Rather it was the question how art can allow citizens to influence reality and foster critical attitudes in society. Both the activists from the movements as well as the participating artists tried to position themselves in relation to concrete political and social concerns in order to contribute to situating art within the field of contemporary politics. At several moments during the 7th Berlin Biennale it became apparent how uncomfortable both art’s debate with itself and its confrontation with political reality can be. For an attitude of artistic and political responsibility is always accompanied by skepticism, disagreement, risk, confrontation, and possible failure. The 7th Berlin Biennale prompted us to leave behind our feelings of discomfort and fear of confrontations and change in order to face the challenge of social transformation.

 

 

The Curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

Artur Żmijewski

ARTUR ŻMIJEWSKI INVITED FOLLOWING GUESTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE 7TH BERLIN BIENNALE:

Associated curator:

Joanna Warsza

Associated curators:

Oleg Vorotnikov (a.k.a. Vor), Natalya Sokol (a.k.a. Kozljonok or Koza), Leonid Nikolajew (a.k.a. Leo the Fucknut) and Kasper Nienagliadny Sokol from Voina


GRAPHIC DESIGN

BUREAU Mario Lombardo

Events of the 7th Berlin Biennale

COME PICK UP!

Give away action with Pawel Althamer in the front garden of the St. Elisabeth-Church. More >
COME PICK UP!

“The last one turns the light…!”

A workshop in the framework of »Draftsmen's Congress« by Bel Etage. More >
“The last one turns the light…!”

“A Gentrification Program” – a seminar with the Institute for Human Activities

A seminar with the Institute for Human Activities. More >
“A Gentrification Program” – a seminar with the Institute for Human Activities

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin #9: 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Politics. In Between

This open meeting and discussion considers the effects of the initiatives and actions conducted... More >
Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin #9: 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Politics. In Between

“Am I a good artist?” by Antanas Mockus

Antanas Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, examines the result of his art installation in... More >
“Am I a good artist?” by Antanas Mockus

Evening discussion about the artistic and political demands of the 7th Berlin Biennale

Moderated by Jessica Pluntke in German. More >
Evening discussion about the artistic and political demands of the 7th Berlin Biennale

POLITICS OF MEMORY. RE-INVENTION OF THE PAST

Discussion with Michael Dorrmann, Prof. Robert Traba, Jakub Majmurek and Igor Stokfiszewski. More >
POLITICS OF MEMORY. RE-INVENTION OF THE PAST

CANCELLED: “An Evening without Christian Worch” by BRIMBORIA Institute

The event has been cancelled. More >
CANCELLED: “An Evening without Christian Worch” by BRIMBORIA Institute

USART BERLIN, re: drawing.

A workshop Draftsmen’s Congress in Eisenhüttenstadt More >
USART BERLIN, re: drawing.

23:59hicduabcd457adhoc-eintrittegal

Kartenrecht sits in the basement. More >
23:59hicduabcd457adhoc-eintrittegal

Egyptian revolts in counterrevolutionary times

A discussion with Tarek Shalaby. More >
Egyptian revolts in counterrevolutionary times

“Anatomy Lessons” initiated by Christina Lammer

Lecture-Performance with Manfred Frey, Michael Häfner, Peter Moeschl and Ulrich Thomale in Auditorium for... More >
“Anatomy Lessons” initiated by Christina Lammer

Evening discussion: Feminist Positions of the 7th Berlin Biennale

On the example of »Self # governing« by Marina Naprushkina (in German). More >
Evening discussion: Feminist Positions of the 7th Berlin Biennale

“Die geteilte Klasse” – a film by Andrzej Klamt

The Foundation for Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation presents »Die geteilte Klasse« by Andrzej Klamt in... More >
“Die geteilte Klasse” – a film by Andrzej Klamt

“Die geteilte Klasse” – a film by Andrzej Klamt

Foundation for Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation presents »Die geteilte Klasse« by Andrzej Klamt in Zeughauskino. More >
“Die geteilte Klasse” – a film by Andrzej Klamt

“Reclaiming the city” – a film by Stefan Rusu

An investigative documentary presents a quest through socio-economic restructuring processes in Berlin. More >
“Reclaiming the city” – a film by Stefan Rusu

CARING IS ACTING: ARTISTIC ENGAGEMENT IN PUBLIC SPACE

Olafur Eliasson conceived for the 7th Berlin Biennale a six-month educational–political experiment, a stipend... More >
CARING IS ACTING: ARTISTIC ENGAGEMENT IN PUBLIC SPACE

Eisenhüttenstadt – Artists-in-Berlin-Program

The 7th Berlin Biennale presents projects of DAAD, me Collectors Room Berlin, Olbricht Foundation... More >
Eisenhüttenstadt – Artists-in-Berlin-Program

Bring peace to the wall

Come with candles and help to set a sign. More >
Bring peace to the wall

Bike tour to Łukasz Surowiec’s “Berlin-Birkenau” and Joanna Rajkowska’s “Born in Berlin”

Moderated by Silke Feldhoff und Marta Neuff in German. More >
Bike tour to Łukasz Surowiec’s “Berlin-Birkenau” and Joanna Rajkowska’s “Born in Berlin”

Projects of the 7th Berlin Biennale

“A Gentrification Program” by Institute for Human Activities

If we feel art should fully embrace the terms and conditions of its own existence, it may be good to inquire where art has... More >
“A Gentrification Program” by Institute for Human Activities

“Art Covers Politics” curated by Tomáš Rafa

The front page of the 7th Berlin Biennale website shows the project »Art Covers Politics«, which presents images submitted by artists and others who... More >
“Art Covers Politics” curated by Tomáš Rafa

“Battle of Berlin 1945″ – a documentation

The 7th Berlin Biennale has invited a few re-enactment groups to stage the Battle of Berlin 1945. More >
“Battle of Berlin 1945″ – a documentation

“Berek” by Artur Żmijewski

The movie »Berek« was removed from the exhibition »Side by Side. Poland – Germany. A 1000 Years of Art and History« by the director... More >
“Berek” by Artur Żmijewski

“Berlin-Birkenau” by Łukasz Surowiec

The project Berlin-Birkenau brings a few hundred young birches from the area around Auschwitz-Birkenau to Berlin. More >
“Berlin-Birkenau” by Łukasz Surowiec

“Beyond” by Lou Cantor

The movie by Lou Cantor documents the final phase of the construction of Christ the King-Statue in Świebodzin. More >
“Beyond” by Lou Cantor

“Blood ties” by Antanas Mockus

Antanas Mockus refers to Teresa Margolles’s work on the current drug war in Mexico, where gangs and paramilitary groups kill each other, murdering many... More >
“Blood ties” by Antanas Mockus

“Born in Berlin” by Joanna Rajkowska

I believe that the place of birth has a significant influence over each human being’s fate and their attitude toward it. You return to... More >
“Born in Berlin” by Joanna Rajkowska

Breaking the News

»Breaking the News« presents the activities of a number of artists and their documentary practice, readiness to act, civic disobedience, and willingness to put... More >
Breaking the News

“Christ the King” by Mirosław Patecki

The »Christ the King« statue, designed by Mirosław Patecki, reaches over fifty meters and is situated about sixty kilometers from the German-Polish border, in... More >
“Christ the King” by Mirosław Patecki

CIVIL INITIATIVE FOR THE MEMORIAL TO THE SINTI AND ROMA MURDERED UNDER THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST REGIME

Up to now the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Murdered under the National Socialist Regime still has not been built; it is an... More >
CIVIL INITIATIVE FOR THE MEMORIAL TO THE SINTI AND ROMA MURDERED UNDER THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST REGIME

Deutschlandhaus as Venue

Metaphorically speaking, Deutschlandhaus seems to be a container of repressed or excluded German memory. More >
Deutschlandhaus as Venue

“Draftsmen’s Congress” initiated by Paweł Althamer

The »Draftsmen’s Congress« is a continuous meeting of people who talk using images instead of words. Everyone is invited! More >
“Draftsmen’s Congress” initiated by Paweł Althamer

„Facing the Scene” by Anna Baranowska and Luise Schröder

The film »Facing the Scene«, which was shot in November 2010, depicts the inauguration of the statue Christ the King. More >
„Facing the Scene” by Anna Baranowska and Luise Schröder

Filtered by Eisenhüttenstadt

It’s easy to offer culture to people in Berlin, where there are always some visitors who will come to see the show. But what... More >
Filtered by Eisenhüttenstadt

“Final Fantasies” by Joanna Rajkowska

There is an important question for everyone whose life is about to end: »How would you like to die?« More >
“Final Fantasies” by Joanna Rajkowska

“Germany gets rid of it” by Martin Zet

The campaign »Deutschland schafft es ab« (Germany gets rid of it) was launched by artist Martin Zet in January 2012. More >
“Germany gets rid of it” by Martin Zet

“Happy New Fear” – an action by BUREAU Mario Lombardo

With our experiment we want to investigate the limits of politics, art and election advertising. More >
“Happy New Fear” – an action by BUREAU Mario Lombardo

“Key of Return” – probably the biggest key in the world

In 2008, the residents of the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem in Palestine collaboratively produced what is said to be the largest key in... More >
“Key of Return” – probably the biggest key in the world

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin

As part of the 7th Berlin Biennale, Political Critique launches its newest Club. The Berlin branch (following Kiev and London) is another international initiative... More >
Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin

“Lady of War” – Center for Political Beauty

In 2011 the Federal Security Council, under its chairwoman Angela Merkel, decided to approve a major arms deal. More >
“Lady of War” – Center for Political Beauty

“Lebanese Flag” by Youseef, Ibrahim and Moussa Bassal

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Germany the Arab and Turkish population showed unprecedented support for the national soccer team by putting German... More >
“Lebanese Flag” by Youseef, Ibrahim and Moussa Bassal

Mobinil advertising banner

Recent Mobinil advertisements capitalize on the revolution and struggles for democracy. They feature images of protesters and quote famous politicians who expressed support for... More >
Mobinil advertising banner

“New World Summit” – a congress with Jonas Staal

The »New World Summit« is an alternative parliament for political and juridical representatives of organizations currently placed on international terrorist lists. More >
“New World Summit” – a congress with Jonas Staal

Open Call & ArtWiki: Digital venue of the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

In November 2010 curator Artur Żmijewski announced a call to artists from all over the world, asking them to send in artistic material as... More >
Open Call & ArtWiki: Digital venue of the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

“Peace Wall” by Nada Prlja

A wall is standing on Friedrichstraße. Finally, we are on a way to establish peace. More >
“Peace Wall” by Nada Prlja

“PM 2010″ by Teresa Margolles

Teresa Margolles collects the front pages of the Mexican daily tabloid PM, published in Ciudad Juárez, one of the most dangerous border cities in... More >
“PM 2010″ by Teresa Margolles

“Rebranding European Muslims” by Public Movement

»Rebranding European Muslims« is an international public relations campaign by Public Movement, which aims to change the image of the European Muslim population. More >
“Rebranding European Muslims” by Public Movement

Remembering Piece by Piece. First objects for the future exhibition

We invited the curatorial team of the Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation to present items from their collection of belongings donated by Germans who left... More >
Remembering Piece by Piece. First objects for the future exhibition

“Self # governing” – a newspaper by Marina Naprushkina

Marina Naprushkina works with the cultural and political scene in Belarus in order to strengthen democratic processes in the country. More >
“Self # governing” – a newspaper by Marina Naprushkina

Solidarity Actions

We asked other art institutions who are interested in the same issues to develop their own research and present it in the framework of... More >
Solidarity Actions

“State of Palestine” by Khaled Jarrar

Khaled Jarrar, a Palestinian artist, decided to declare the existence of a non-existent state. He created a passport stamp for the »State of Palestine.« More >
“State of Palestine” by Khaled Jarrar

“Sunray” – a project by Paweł Althamer

In Minsk, Belarus, more than 150 people in golden suits walked two miles to welcome the sun on May 18. More >
“Sunray” – a project by Paweł Althamer

Venues of the 7th Berlin Biennale

Akademie der Künste

Pariser Platz 4, D-10117 Berlin More >
Akademie der Künste

Allianz Treptowers

Allianz TreptowersTreptower Park, 12435 Berlin Exhibition venue of the 2nd Berlin Biennale More >
Allianz Treptowers

Alte Nationalgalerie / Old National Gallery

Bodestr. 1-3, 10178 Berlin (Museum Island) Exhibition venue of... More >
Alte Nationalgalerie / Old National Gallery

Ballhaus Mitte, Spiegelsaal

Ballhaus Mitte, SpiegelsaalAuguststraße 34, 10117 Berlin Exhibition venue of the 4th Berlin Biennale More >
Ballhaus Mitte, Spiegelsaal

Charité

Sauerbruchweg 2, D–10117 Berlin More >
Charité

Collegium Hungaricum Berlin

Dorotheenstrasse 12, D–10117 Berlin More >
Collegium Hungaricum Berlin

Crash Pad

Crash Pad c/o KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Auguststraße... More >
Crash Pad

Deutschlandhaus

Stresemannstrasse 90, D-10963 Berlin More >
Deutschlandhaus

Dresdener Straße 19

Dresdener Straße 1910999 Berlin Exhibition venue of the 6th Berlin Biennale More >
Dresdener Straße 19

Old Garrison Cemetery

Old Garrison CemeteryKleine Rosenthaler Straße 3, 10117 Berlin Exhibition venue of the 4th Berlin... More >
Old Garrison Cemetery
8th Berlin Biennale
6th Berlin Biennale